I’m taking a break from Job Hunted to work on Nikko’s Bond. Because I intend to write the first draft rather quickly (I’m aiming for under a month for 30,000 – 50,000 words), I want to be organized before I begin. I’ve decided to move away from my beloved spreadsheets and try a more old fashioned approach for outlining this novel.
I went to the drug store, bought a package of blank cards (so I could write on them portrait-style rather than the standard landscape-style), some new pens, and a bunch of pencils. If they’d had a binder ring I would’ve bought it too, but they didn’t. While I’m not using a spreadsheet, I’m still following the basic elements of scene design.
At the top of each card I write a ‘title’ for the chapter/scene (I’m envisioning short chapters). I may end up numbering them instead of using titles, but avoiding numbers now gives me the psychological freedom to move chapters/scenes around later without feeling like I need to renumber everything.
After the title, I assign my POV character a goal. This step is proving to be highly useful because while I have some great ideas for scenes, insisting on a goal forces me to answer the question, “Why is this scene important to the story?” If I can’t answer that, then the scene shouldn’t be written. Hopefully this will prevent me from having to kill too many extraneous darlings during my rewriting and editing phases.
Once the goal is articulated, I decide on the conflict – what’s going to make reaching that goal harder? I then throw in a disaster. Something has to happen in the scene that either prevents the POV character from reaching his/her goal, or it has to change the character’s goal.
To help me craft the scenes, I then write down the key emotions my characters are feeling during the scene – particularly their reaction to the disaster.
I finish my plans with a dilemma and a choice. In order for the story to move forward, the character must be the one making the decisions (MCs should never be passive passengers on their journeys), and those decisions should rarely be easy (or without consequence). I make sure to write down the character’s choice as this often helps with setting up the goal for the next scene.
One of the beautiful things about using index cards is they fit in my pocket. I was taking my laptop everywhere, and while that’s certainly feasible, tossing a pack of cards in my pocket is even easier. In addition, I can shuffle them around and physically see how the novel is shaping up.
For someone who hates writing anything by hand, I am finding a lot of enjoyment with this system.
How do you like to plan out your novels?